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Internet ‘filtering’ was always the thin edge of the wedge (part 1)

Thurs. 09 Apr. 2015

It was always going to be this way: beat UK internet service providers (ISPs) with a big stick to introduce default (but opt-out) internet “filtering”, and the next step would be much easier. The next step is outright censorship, enforced by law, and this step is what the current Conservative-dominated government has vowed to implement if returned to power in May’s elections: this was widely reported in the media last (Easter) Saturday, 4 April.

There is some confusion as to what is going on; there shouldn’t be, because it’s not hard to find out what has happened and what is proposed, even though probably less people than usual paid attention to the news over the Easter holiday. So, for an example of the mainstream coverage, this article by the BBC will do: Porn sites must have age checks, say Conservatives. You can tell from the tone that BBC editorial doesn’t think it’s too bad an idea. There are many examples of coverage if your preferred media outlet is not the BBC (which it shouldn’t be); not that the Huffington Post should be a preferred media outlet any more than the BBC, but it is an alternative, and their article makes clear that Labour would do the same: Porn websites without age verification to be shut down, Sajid Javid pledges. Who? Oh yes, Sajid Javid is the Tory culture secretary, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t until this latest censorship frenzy).

Now for a refreshing, alternative view from the Sex & Censorship campaign, which pretty well tells it as it is: Alert: Tories promise Chinese-style internet censorship.

Jerry Barnett of Sex & Censorship begins his story of censorship woe with the UK institution of a regulator for online video-on-demand in 2010, but I think it can be argued that the story of UK internet censorship began in 2005 when the Labour government started on the road to criminalise the possession of “extreme pornography”, which became law in 2008. I made this case in my News item of 11 August 2013, ‘Extreme porn’ and internet censorship, and I carried it further in no uncertain terms with More on forced internet filtering and the ‘porn monster’.

That News item of mine provides links to a number of informative articles, notably articles hosted by the Backlash BDSM campaign group, that all help provide deeper background on what the Tories have just promised to do.

If you remember the scare campaign and moral panic going back to “extreme porn”, and then think of how this principle was expanded in 2010 to include “dangerous cartoons” (see Backlash: Dangerous Cartoons Act), and then think of how default internet “filtering” was introduced in 2013 – applied late 2013 to early 2014 – and you can see a very clear pattern. The march to state control of the internet in the UK is well advanced – and, in reality beginning with an “objectionable content” filter – it was always about more than porn, but using porn as a popular excuse for the thin edge of the wedge: see Cameron’s internet filter goes far beyond porn - and that was always the plan; and, Cameron’s proposed filters extend to more than just porn.

And one last thing: you know there’s a rat in the house when charities-that-are-really-lobby-groups employ what is essentially a media PR company to conduct surveys, and political parties then use the resulting stats to support a populist policy statement that is really about population control: Are a tenth of the UK’s 12-year-olds really ‘addicted’ to porn?

This is the domestic crisis of the decade, and deserves more than full attention.

Mistress Geo